Boeing hit record 762 airplane deliveries in ’15 but orders hit downdraft; jet backlog near 5,800


U.S. aerospace giant Boeing delivered a record number of commercial aircraft in 2015 as it boosted production, but that good news was offset by an expected sharp fall in orders.

Boeing announced Thursday that it had delivered 762 commercial aircraft to customers last year, beating its own target of 755-760 planes amid healthy passenger growth in the airline industry and lower fuel prices.

That topped Boeing’s previous record of 723 deliveries in 2014 and put it on track to top European rival Airbus for a fourth straight year.

According to Bloomberg, Airbus, due to publish its tally on Jan. 12, will likely announce 635 commercial aircraft deliveries in 2015, up six from 2014.

But Boeing’s net orders stood at 743 aircraft as of Dec. 22, almost half the 2014 level, which was a record-breaking year for the Chicago-based company. The company was expected to publish 2015 order data later Thursday.

Earnings numbers will not be released for several more weeks. Boeing has forecast 2015 revenues for its Commercial Airplanes division in a $65 billion to $66 billion range, up from $60 billion in 2014.

Boeing shares were down 2.5 percent at $135.43 in midday trade after the deliveries announcement, in an overall lower market.

On Dec. 31, Boeing’s backlog of orders stood at 5,795, representing more than 7½ years of production at the current rate.

Deliveries are a closely watched indicator for aircraft manufacturers because they represent firm, paid-for orders.

Deliveries have taken on more importance because both Boeing and Airbus have large order backlogs that have raised questions about their capacity to keep to their respective production calendars.

Both have boosted the pace of production of their medium and long-range aircraft.

Boeing has ramped up production by 60 percent over the past five years. The company said Thursday it would step up the current pace of 63 aircraft per month to more than 70 in 2017.

Output of its popular 737 passenger jet will rise from 42 per month to 52 a month in 2018.

Production of the 787 Dreamliner, built largely with lightweight composite materials that reduce fuel use, will rise from a current 10 per month rate to 14 by 2020.

While it was likely Boeing will beat Airbus in deliveries in 2015, the France-based rival will outshine in net orders.

As of Nov. 30, Airbus, which set an industry record with 1,503 orders in 2013, had booked 1,007 net orders thanks largely to its best-selling A320, which dominates the medium-range market.